the spot on the wall

part one

I told a friend I was having a bit of an identity crisis. I’m not sure what I am—an author, a photographer, a mosaic artist, just another creative Libra with undiag- nosed adult ADD. She asked how I wanted to be known. I don’t even have to think about the answer. I am a writer. It’s like skin on a body; you can’t detach yourself from it without stinging, burning, bleeding out. I stopped writing in 1997, and I didn’t sleep for five years.

It seems I could feel that way about photography, too. I’m never without my camera—sometimes because I want to capture the essence of a thing with words later, but more because I don’t feel like I see as fully without it. Photographs verify and fortify and rectify my vision—even enhance it. (Amazing how much of a bird you can see by zooming in with a 300mm lens.) But take my camera away, and, although I’ll flounder a bit, I’ll still be me to my core. I’ll still sleep.

I rarely go somewhere just for the pictures of an event, but almost every interesting thing I’ve done in my life is for the writing of it. If you are a writer, you do things—interesting things—things other than playing endless rounds of Bejewelled Blitz and posting status updates. In November, I drove members of Bob Schneider’s band to their hotel and back to the venue, an unglamorous thing for a fan to do, just so I could write about the experience. I went to Rock & Roll Fantasy Camp for a day two summers ago as part of a writing project. I enrolled my daughter in the School of Rock and went to Ladies Rock Camp for three days last summer for the same writing project. It’s why I meet people for coffee. It’s why I ask questions. I land a photo shoot for an interesting person, and before we book the session, I’m interviewing my subject, trying to parlay our meeting into a story. I am a dog, and everything outside of myself is, potentially, a bone.

I guess the crisis is less with my own identity than it is with experiences. Photography subjects are endless—flowers in drizzle are always beautiful, my dog Chance is always handsome. But I have nothing to do right now, nowhere to go; I have nothing to say. I’ve been sitting around for the past few dreary, chilly, rainy days wallowing in the miserable sitting. I am a shapeless blob at my kitchen table wondering who I am, staring at a spot on the wall.

From the time I was six years old, I would ask my mother to give me a subject, and she’d say something like, “Write a poem about the dog.” And I would. She’d point and say, “Write a poem about that spot on the wall.” And I would.

I’m all grown up, but I still feel like I need someone to tell me what to write. Agents and editors are often unwilling, and my mom isn’t much help in that area anymore. Lately, I can’t even write a poem on my own; my last five were composed around a bunch of random words donated by my friends on Facebook.

So here I sit, with an open call to the universe, waiting, prepared, ready with all the perfect words, all my soldiers, my children. Here I sit, staring at this spot on the wall. The spot where I’ve recorded my daughter’s height for the last eight years of her life.

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  1. Kim Hosey May 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm #

    This had better not be a veiled Suck Voice.

    I used to do something similar to your activity with your mom. My dad would give me topics from time to time. I wrote a poem on the dust on our end table, one on our cat, one on his baseball card collection. There was always something freeing about being provided with a topic. We used to have drawing prompts in elementary school — "squiggles," they called them. Some weird or abstract shape; make a picture out of it, tell your picture's story. Go. It was amazing to see what people came up with.

    I think you're amazing. You still seem to see this effect that takes place with collaborative ideas or delving into experiences, and then you put them together in even more amazing ways. It's very much your creation in the end, but one everyone cares about. Pretty damn good, if you ask me.

  2. Esther May 20, 2010 at 5:31 pm #

    you know what? you wrote this. another thought-provoking entry in your blog, which is filled with words that have affected many in such a good way, myself included. my blog died a pathetic death several years ago, because i just couldn't seem to put words together that affected me, let alone any other possible readers i had out there. i am definitely not a writer. lol

    anyhoo, i guess what i'm saying is that all your writing is wonderful, even though it may not be what you'd rather be writing about. clear as mud? lol

  3. jo(e) May 22, 2010 at 1:02 pm #

    Photography always seems to me an extension of writing — it's still a way of seeing and recording this amazing world we live in.

  4. jodi May 25, 2010 at 6:43 pm #

    even when you have nothing to write about, you come up with this wonderful bounty of words and thoughts.

    just keep on keepin' on.

  5. Fran June 9, 2010 at 10:23 am #

    i can appreciate this blog lots. i wonder the same often although i realize the journeys that i choose to tread everyday with folks predestined with a life sentence due to some sort of terminal illness is my only current journey. is it a bad thing? not for anyone else to say. does it bring food to the table for feast in further photography and writing? indeed yes… glad you wrote this up and posted the photo that you did, of the spot on the wall. glad to know we can all wonder, together, and realise together, as well. be well!

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